Saturday, November 21, 2020

Kristin Fields

Kristin Fields grew up in Queens, which she likes to think of as a small town next to a big city. She studied writing at Hofstra University, where she was awarded the Eugene Schneider Award for Short Fiction. After college, Fields found herself working on a historic farm, as a high school English teacher, designing museum education programs, and is currently leading an initiative to bring gardens to public schools in New York City, where she lives with her husband.

Fields's new novel is A Frenzy of Sparks.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I always know the title of my novels before I start writing. In many ways, the title becomes the question I work backwards to answer. There are many ways that A Frenzy of Sparks connects to the themes of the novel: coming of age, addiction, the civil, political, and societal demands for change (not unlike those of today). In both of my novels, A Lily in the Light and A Frenzy of Sparks, the title has also been a line in the story.

What's in a name?

My family is Italian American. Writing this novel was really a way to connect back to many aspects of my upbringing and the names of my characters were no exception to this. Gia, Leo, Agnes, Eddie, Lorraine, Ray, Tommy, all the Joes and Lous. These were all common names I heard growing up. I loved the name Gia because it was so simple – just three strong letters – much like her personality.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

One of the earliest facts I knew about myself was that I wanted to be a writer. Someday. I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage self that someday she will write novels. More than one. I think it would have made my teenage self a little bolder and less shy knowing that there were promising things in her future.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Definitely beginnings. The first three chapters of a novel are so important because they set the scene for the rest of the story. In many ways, every character trait, any relationship dynamics, etc that will be important to the story later need to be introduced in the beginning so that the story builds in a way that makes sense to the reader. I often don’t write the beginning of the story until the bulk of the middle/end is done so that I can set the beginning up properly.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Gia is the closest character I’ve written to myself. I was a lot like Gia when I was her age. I loved nature. It explained the world around me and I felt like I had a better understanding of nature than I had of people. I was quiet and observant and wanted to do good in a world that didn’t quit feel entirely open to me as a girl as it did to boys. Gia doesn’t understand why the rules are different for her than they are for her slightly older brother and she challenges them in a way I didn’t know how to when I was her age. Gia is also a lot braver than I was.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Shortly after I decided to write A Frenzy of Sparks, I was cleaning on a Saturday morning with music streaming, and the universe sent me Brandi Carlile's "The Eye." It’s about watching someone you love return to old habits that aren’t good for them. My favorite line from the song is, “You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you’re standing in the eye.”

It struck a nerve. For weeks, I listened to it over and over again; at home, on the subway, walking, trying to figure out what it was that gripped me and how it was connected to A Frenzy of Sparks. Eventually, I realized that Gia, the main character, was Brandi's "sturdy soul" in the eye of a hurricane watching her world spin out around her. It was an image I kept returning to as I wrote A Frenzy of Sparks.
Visit Kristin Fields's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Lily in the Light.

My Book, The Movie: A Frenzy of Sparks.

The Page 69 Test: A Frenzy of Sparks.

--Marshal Zeringue